various artists,
Live at the Talbot
(Redkite, 2004)

Subtitled "Roots off the Beaten Track," Live at the Talbot is an eclectic collection of folk and blues songs from a wide-ranging set of performers. Its genesis lies in the mountains of Wales but the content ranges the globe.

In 1997 a group of people formed an organization called Celf Cambrian Arts with the aim of promoting the arts in an area of great natural beauty but with little in the way of arts facilities. One thing they achieved was a regular music session at the Talbot Hotel in Tregaron, a small town in mid-Wales. Now this small-town venue shares the highlights of the 2003-04 season with the world through this wonderful album of live recordings.

The range of artists attracted to the venue must give hope to anyone out there genuinely wanting to stage great music events.

The CD opens with Jeffrey Foucault from Wisconsin singing of "Crossing Mississippi," and it does not falter through its 13 tracks.

"Evangelina" is given a wonderful outing by Albert Lee and Hogan's Heroes. On Keith Frank and Soileau Zydeco's performance of "Give Me Just a Little Time," we hear some great vocals plus the scrub board as an instrument.

One of the best tracks here is "The Snake," written by Oscar Brown and performed by Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoghby. This is a story-song that will hypnotize you and keep your attention to the final line.

"Gone to Lewiston" features the hoarse but beautiful voice of Kreg Viesselman on his own composition. With just vocal, guitars and harmonica, it is magical. Lisa Mills may be from Mobile, Alabama, but her voice is international and she wowed the Welsh audience with her singing of "The Richest One" on this album.

From the USA, the promoters turned to Zimbabwe for the next act and the blend is imperceptible as Imbizo performing "When I think About You" reminds the listener of Ladysmith Black Mambaso at their best.

Listening to this album I was amazed at the range of artists attracted to the venue. Kris Delmhorst entranced me with "Hummingbird" and then Faire Wind blew me away with a fantastic rendition of "Rocking the Cradle."

This is a revelation of an album. It brings together a variety of performers, styles and genres and blends them into a confection that will please all palates. It should also be an inspiration to venues and promoters. Like the movie Field of Dreams says, if you build it -- in this case an audience -- they will come -- in this case top-class acts.

You may not get to Tregaron, but buy the album and travel the world on your CD player.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 12 February 2005